Mobile firms claim e-money laws threaten m-commerce

The European Commission has been told to hold back from regulating 3G too tightly if it wants Europe to become a fully broadband-enabled society

Europe's mobile phone companies are urging the European Commission to interfere as little as possible with the rollout of 3G services, amid concerns that forthcoming legislation on e-money could damage m-commerce. Senior executives from 18 European mobile network operators spelled out their demands in a meeting on Tuesday with top European politicians and administrators, including Erkki Liikanen, Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner. These operators -- all members of GSM Europe, the European arm of the GSM Association -- want the EC to take a hands-off approach to the third-generation mobile market, and believe it should not regulate the industry too tightly. "The Commission and regulators should recognise the adverse risk of inappropriate regulation and its overspill on to new and innovative services, including 3G," said GSM Europe in a statement issued shortly after Tuesday's meeting. In particular, GSM Europe is concerned that the e-money directive that was recently passed by the EC, and is currently being implemented by EC member states, could damage m-commerce. "The Commission should, with respect to the take-up of mobile commerce, ensure that mobile operators can offer innovative m-commerce services for their subscribers without being hindered by inappropriate financial regulation, that does not take into account the issues specific to the mobile market, such as pre-pay," GSM Europe added. A GSM Europe spokeswoman told ZDNet UK that these concerns focus on the effect that the e-money directive would have on the pre-paid mobile market. GSM Europe is currently preparing a position paper on the issue, which should be published in the next few weeks. As ZDNet UK Tech Update reported last month, the e-money directive was implemented by the UK in April and will allow companies such as ISPs and mobile network operators to issue electronic money. This e-money will be stored on a device such as a PC or mobile phone, and will be accepted by a third party -- for example a high-street store or an e-commerce Web site -- in place of cash. Experts have described the UK's implementation of the e-money directive as "liberal". Companies that opt to issue electronic money will not be subject such a rigorous regime as a credit card provider, for example, but there are still a number of strict safeguards in place. Click here to read about some of these safeguards. Positive vibes
A wide range of other 3G issues were discussed at Tuesday's meeting, including infrastructure sharing, spectrum management and network management. In a statement, Erkki Liikanen said that 3G is a vital part of the EU's ambition of creating a broadband society. "I welcome the roundtable initiative with GSM Europe and today's discussions, which have provided a solid basis for a successful launch of 3G services in the very near future," said Liikanen. 3G pressure
After spending well over £100m acquiring European 3G licences, mobile phone companies are facing up to the challenge of creating compelling applications and services that will allow them to recoup this investment. With most industry observers believing that the prices for 3G licences were much too high, the pressure to succeed with 3G is immense. Organisations such as the GSM Association are making it clear that if the EC is really committed to the development of high-speed data services across the European Union must not start putting hurdles in the way.

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